Asbestos was one of the widely used materials in the construction industry. But in 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put a ban on its use after the dangers of asbestos exposure came to light. The rest of the article takes you through some common symptoms that indicate asbestos exposure.
Have You Been Exposed to Asbestos?
The symptoms usually surface many years after the exposure. However, in event of heavy exposure, symptoms such as a recurring wheezing cough, or sudden difficulty in breathing could develop within months of the exposure. Here are some of the most common symptoms.
» Shortness of breath
» Difficulty in breathing
» Dry, crackling sound while breathing
» Persistent cough
» Constant chest pain
» Unexplained weight loss
» Loss of appetite
» Difficulty in swallowing
» Swelling of the face or neck
» Sudden fever/night sweats
Note that having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have an asbestos-related health problem. It could be some other problem not related to asbestos at all, but if you have been exposed to asbestos, it would be best to seek medical help immediately. You may be asked to get pulmonary function tests, chest X-rays or a CT scan done, and if the symptoms are severe, a lung biopsy may be performed to rule out the possibility of cancer. The treatment for asbestosis may involve the use of bronchodilators and other drugs. If lung function has been greatly affected and one is suffering from severe shortness of breath, oxygen therapy might be suggested. On the other hand, treatment of cancer would require surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Who's At Risk?
The use of asbestos in construction is at a minimum today, but people affected the most are those who were exposed to asbestos from the 1940s until the late 1980s.
» Construction workers who handle material that contains asbestos.
» Workers who are directly involved in the removal of material containing asbestos.
» Construction workers responsible for house/building renovation.
» Shipyard workers renovating old ships.
» Shipyard workers involved in breaking down and demolishing ships for scrap.
Not only are these people at a risk of asbestos exposure, but so are the people they immediately come in contact with, such as friends and members of the family. Fine particles of asbestos cannot be seen by the naked eye, and can get embedded in their hair, and the clothing they wear. Thus, asbestos fibers could move from the workplace to wherever the individual goes and such people could also develop problems caused by breathing in asbestos.
Severe Complications of Asbestos Exposure
» Asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer are some of the major health problems caused by asbestos.
» The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause lung problems such as asbestosis. The symptoms of asbestosis develop gradually after several years of exposure. It is characterized by the inflammation of the lung tissue and the buildup of a scar-like tissue in place of the healthy lung tissue.
» Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer of the thin membranes that surround the lungs and abdomen. Long-term exposure to asbestos is also one of the common causes of this type of cancer.
» Prolonged exposure to asbestos can also put one at an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Emphysema, pulmonary hypertension, pleural effusion, and cardiovascular problems are some of the other conditions that may occur due to prolonged exposure to asbestos.
Since exposure to asbestos can have serious repercussions on one's health, those who come in the high-risk group for diseases related to asbestos exposure must never ignore symptoms such as persistent coughing, chest tightness, chest pain or breathing problems. The importance of an early diagnosis of asbestos-related diseases cannot be stressed enough. If symptoms of asbestos exposure are detected early, one may be able to recover. Moreover, a timely diagnosis and treatment would also prevent further damage.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.